Colourful Raglan identity’s life celebrated twice over

Celebrations of Raglan identity Barry Ashby’s life were held on both sides of the divvy last Friday, such was the regard held for – to quote former ward councillor Clint Baddeley – “a lovely old fella”.

About 30 Raglan residents travelled to Barry’s formal farewell at 1pm in Hamilton East Methodist Church, while much the same number shared memories informally a few hours later downtown at Orca Restaurant & Bar.

This was ‘Barry’s Hour’, organised by the Raglan Chamber of Commerce as “a happy hour to celebrate one of our favourite community members”.

It was to have been the chamber’s scheduled monthly meeting or happy hour, explained co-chair Morgan Morris, but was re-named in honour of Barry who’d been an active member as owner of Journey’s End B&B at the wharf.

“We will surely miss his insightful opinions,” lamented the chamber on Facebook.

Barry was not only a chamber member but also served on the Raglan Community Board for two terms.

“He was a lovely old fella with a very strong social conscience,” Clint told the Chronicle this week. Barry, a longtime teacher and guidance counsellor who’d retired in Raglan, was always eager to help young people in particular, Clint said.

One of the community board’s more youthful members in recent years, Kelly Murphy (nee Clarkson), told on the Raglan 23 website how Barry had shown her “so much kindness and support” during her time there. “You could see his love for Whaingaroa and its people shine through.”

Former board chair Rodger Gallagher lauded Barry as a local stalwart “who could always be relied on for the common sense view of community matters”, whether it be painting parking spaces at the wharf for orderly management or pressuring Waikato District Council to overturn its Bow Street dog ban.

Before the ban was overturned Barry’s own small dog with the big name – Sir Barney Grubb – was left in the car while his owner shopped, Rodger said, even though others let their much larger dogs flout the rules.

“Barry always obeyed the law,” Rodger said. “On the other hand he also put forward ideas that tested people’s thinking such as establishing a naval training base in Raglan.”

Current ward councillor Lisa Thomson, who went to both celebrations of Barry’s life last week, told the Chronicle how moving it was to see several grandchildren speak at the Hamilton East church of his influence on them personally. “He obviously had a huge impact on their lives.”

An older friend also spoke of how Barry – who was just shy of 80 when he died – was an atheist but lived by Christian values, Lisa said.

Barry’s reputation as a prolific letter writer to newspapers and politicians around the country – on favourite issues such as animal rights – was also noted, Lisa added. He’d penned an estimated 1200 letters to various editors over the years.

Friends and family at his Hamilton service heard how disgruntled he’d be if nothing more than a standard reply came back, at which point Barry would write again to get a genuine response.

“He was one of life’s characters,” Clint laughed this week. While Clint would sometimes worry about Barry’s ongoing health issues, he’d then see another of Barry’s letters pop up in the paper and his fears were allayed.

*Barry – who died on March 25 – was predeceased by his wife, Tricia, and was father and grandfather to Craig, Gregor, Chelsea, Judy, Julie, Isabella (and Ben), Henry, Bradlee, Claudia, Alexander and Zeke … and Sir Barney Grubb.

Edith Symes